CHICAGO (CBS) — Two Chicago men have been charged with the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old high school honor student who was gunned down at a Kenwood neighborhood park late last month, only days after marching at President Obama’s inauguration.
Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, each were charged Monday with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced at a Monday evening news conference.
Hadiya was shot and killed on Jan. 29 in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on the 4400 block of South Oakenwald Avenue, as she and about a dozen schoolmates were sheltering themselves from the rain under a canopy. Two of her peers were injured in the attack, which McCarthy said was a case of mistaken identity, as Ward pulled the trigger in an attempt to retaliate against rival gang members who had shot Williams in July.
“The offenders had it all wrong,” McCarthy said. “They thought the group they shot into included members of a rival gang. Instead, it was a group of upstanding, determined kids like Hadiya who were repulsed by the gang lifestyle.”
Police took the two men into custody Saturday as they were driving to a strip club, McCarthy said. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Hadiya’s mother on Sunday to inform her of the arrest.
Ward confessed to shooting into the group of young people at the park, according to McCarthy.
Both men were scheduled to appear in bond court Tuesday.
“We’re overjoyed that these shooters are off the streets,” Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton, said through a family spokeswoman, Shatira Wilks. “But it’s not over. We need the conviction and stiffer consequences for illegal guns.”
Wilks passed along a statement, too, from Hadiya’s mother, Cleo Pendleton: “I am ecstatic. I pray that they are punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
McCarthy said it was gang surveillance and detective work that brought about a break in the case, not the $40,000 reward that had been offered to potential tipsters.
He said the nationally scrutinized murder bolsters the case for “mandatory minimum” sentences for gun offenders. Ward pleaded guilty to a weapons offense in January 2012 and received two years’ probation, McCarthy said.
“This has to stop. Gun offenders have to do significant jail time. Criminals have to be held accountable, and there has to be a certainty of punishment when we arrest somebody with an illegal firearm,” he said.
Referring to the original shooting of Williams that prompted the misguided retaliatory strike, McCarthy said police had solved the case, but Williams refused to cooperate.
About a week before Hadiya was killed, she had performed with her school band at President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities. Her parents were joining First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday. The first lady attended Hadiya’s funeral on Saturday.